Review ·

After excising themselves of the remaining remnants of their past lives as thrashing garage-punk provocateurs on 2007’s Is Is EP, Yeah Yeah Yeahs were at something of an artistic impasse while recording their third album. Frontwoman Karen O’s insane, Day-Glo screaming-banshee shtick had reached its logical conclusion (and maximum annoyance), and the band’s Spartan set up -- drums (courtesy of perhaps the best drummer in indie rock, Brian Chase) and guitar (courtesy of Nick Zinner) -- was long overdue for an overhaul.

 

Yeah Yeah Yeahs responded by making It’s Blitz, a disco-inspired album that finds the band finally taking full advantage of long-time producer Dave Sitek’s ability to create atmosphere and sonic layers. And it sounds exactly like the Joy Division- and Giorgio Moroder-referencing work that the band promised.

 

The sonic touchstones of disco (synths, dry drum sounds, ass-shaking grooves) inform most of It’s Blitz, but disco as a location and an event is what sets the album up theme-wise. Opener “Zero” centers on the transformative power of being able to be anonymous in a dance club, and the sheer ecstasy that comes with cutting loose. (Karen O equates it to being shell-shocked.) Second track “Heads Will Roll” captures the moments you enter a dance club and feeling like a Viking marauding a small village (“Off with your head/dance till you’re dead” Karen O promises in the chorus). “Soft Shock” starts to bring things to a softer (and sadder) place, with Karen O playing less the marauder, and more the heartbroken woman begging someone not to leave her out of their plans. “Zero” and “Heads Will Roll” dominate the album’s first half, but it’s the lilting “Soft Shock” that sets the tone for the rest of the album, which becomes more about the early morning hours of a night out (when most the emotional baggage happens), instead of the enthusiasm and energy that accompanies the first few hours.  

 

Thanks to the albatross that is “Maps,” Yeah Yeah Yeahs avoided truly slow ballads on Show Your Bones (although that album was mostly populated by mid-tempo tracks). On It’s Blitz they attempt multiple ballads in the “Maps” vein, and they are It’s Blitz’s strongest tracks. The buzzing and tender “Skeletons” is the first -- Karen O sings over bagpiping synths from Zinner and martial drumming from Chase who starts slowly with rim clicks and builds his din with moody cymbal crashes and marching band rhythms. “Skeletons” never builds to a huge moment; it stays in the heart revealing moment it kicks off from. “Hysteric” and “Little Shadow” close out the album, with “Hysteric” serving as the album’s highlight. Karen O finds completion (“You suddenly complete me” goes the chorus) over skittering drumbeats, windy synths, and funky saxophones. “Little Shadow” is the most “Maps”-like, in that it builds to flashy choruses, but instead of reaching out to a lost lover, Karen spends the track begging someone to come out into the night with her.

 

A lot of pre-release buzz mentioned that synths were now the dominate musical instrument in Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ sonic palette, and to an extent, that’s true (guitars are on almost every track, but are treated more like accent instruments instead of the focus throughout most of the album). But there’s still a lot of guitars on It’s Blitz. Zinner drops a plutonium grade riff on “Shame & Fortune,” the album’s heaviest ditty, and a glittery guitar riff saunters like hot-shit dancer underneath Karen O’s mostly wordless choruses on “Dragon Queen” (which features TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone (on tambourine) and Tunde Adebimpe on backing vocals). Synths might be the album’s impetus, but Yeah Yeah Yeahs are still a guitar band.

 

Yeah Yeah Yeahs are also a better all-around band on It’s Blitz. After establishing themselves as abrasive new-wavers that had a female Iggy Pop as a singer on their debut EPs and Fever to Tell, and then allowing Squek E. Clean to bloat Show Your Bones with too many bells and whistles (in a literal, not metaphorical, sense), It’s Blitz is representative of Yeah Yeah Yeahs tightening as an unit and delivering their best album to date.

 

***

Band: http://www.yeahyeahyeahs.com

Label: http://www.interscope.com

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/yeahyeahyeahs

All has been (mostly) quiet on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs front after the band's pretty great 2007 EP, Is Is. That changed in the summer of 2008 when the band posted a cryptic message on their website that said they were up in the country of New York recording their new album, and again in January of 2009, when the band posted another message saying the album is called It's Blitz, and that it would be out in 2009.

 

There's no word on whether or not the tumult that arose in the studio between the band (drummer Brian Chase and guitarist Nick Zinner) and frontwoman Karen O. surfaced during the sessions, but perhaps O. is more creatively fulfilled since she spent part of 2008 working on tracks for her side project, Native Korean Rock. There's no word on what that title means either.  

Paul Wall - Fast Life Peter Doherty Grace/Wasteland
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/site_media/uploads/images/users/Banger/images-6jpg.jpg B/|nGerKat

Wow...surprise you mainstream haters didn't give this a 4.0
and I agree with your 8.0 rating.

LondonD

Where would you have gotten the impression that:
1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs are "mainstream" They are on a major, but are not "mainstream," which would indicate being on the pop charts. They are not "mainstream" unless you count "Maps" as their only recorded output.

2. That we hate "mainstream" music

/site_media/uploads/images/users/thestorfer/1202393jpeg.jpeg andross

Where would you have gotten the impression that:
1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs are "mainstream"? They are on a major, but are not "mainstream," which would indicate being on the pop charts. They are not "mainstream" unless you count "Maps" as their only recorded output.

2. That we hate "mainstream" music?

/site_media/uploads/images/users/thestorfer/1202393jpeg.jpeg andross

Andross=Fail

/site_media/uploads/images/users/thestorfer/1202393jpeg.jpeg andross

The good news: They're not annoyingly posturing anymore
The bad news: their music isn't as good.
I just can't win with this band.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Ethan/nirvana-corporate-rock-whoresjpg.jpg EStan

i just like this album way too much. call me crazy, but I think its on-par with fever to tell.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/monaco/IMG_6245_3 - Version 2 - 2009-01-08 at 21-59-11 (1).jpg monaco

I actually like it way more than Fever to Tell, actually. I never really bought them as abrasive punks, and liked when they went Blondie-esque New Wave on their past albums. Since they go all out Blondie here, I like this better than their other albums.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/thestorfer/1202393jpeg.jpeg andross

I just don't think they have the stuff anymore. Sigh. I think disco/dance is bad "change-up" choice; there are so many other ways to "be different." It makes everything sound the same. Also, I don't think K.O.'s voice works as well when it's not full of energy (making crazy noises) or totally passive (as in Maps). Also, does anyone else think that the melodies are kind of bland?

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Johnmel/P1270021.jpg Johnmel

This is damn good stuff. I love that they have becomed a more produced band with each album. Whether it's hard guitars or synths, they still keep their identity. And I personally like Karen's voice when it's more sensual/sexual-- or as andross put it, goes "Blonde-esque." I'm so digging this...

/site_media/uploads/images/users/WilliamTrinity/william.jpg WilliamTrinity

I like this album more with every listen. 8.5

/site_media/uploads/images/users/redser/red.jpg redser

Predicting a top 10 of 2009 here.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/hybridxdawn/toropovbioimage.jpg dtoropov

you didn't mention dull life??!?
it's my favourite song by far on the album

mp

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